July 17, 2010

As brown mustard seeds can be dated back to at least the Viking Age, one would expect that it had been used in one way or another, if nothing else as a spice. In some of the above dishes I have used a few ground mustard seeds to give it some sting. However, today and already during the medieval period we mainly know mustard as a condiment. When mixing ground mustard seeds with something acidic (vinegar) the taste and smell becomes more pronounced.

Though probably a rather sour cuisine, it would be difficult to say whether malt vinegar was part of the available resources at the time. The existence of malt vinegar is a completely different discussion that I’ll save for another post. But a few days ago I was given two bottles of whey from a small cheese-farm near here, Lofotens Gårdsysteri. This allowed me to think a bit broader about what ways whey can be used. One of the possible uses that struck me was that it could readily be used in exchange for vinegar in both cooking and pickling. Since the whey I got was the remains from cheesemaking, the whey was both sweet and sour. In most recipes, even those dating back to the 13th century the mixture of something sweet and something sour seems central in most recipes, by using this whey it would be possible that it would balance it self.

The method was rather easy; I used more or less a large spoonful of the previously ground mustard seeds, to that I added some of the whey while stirring until it got a good consistency. Stirring and adding a bit more whey as the seeds absorbed the liquid. After a while I was satisfied and I put the mustard to the ultimate test – taste and smell. My direct impression was that the mixture had all the qualities of a mustard although it could perhaps have been a bit sweeter and also less dry. Though the latter could perhaps be remedied by a bit more whey and by grinding the seeds some more before doing the mix. Although tasting properly, it should be allowed to rest for a day before it is finally tested.

edit: After two days it had dried out a bit and lost much of the taste and smell of the previous day, perhas I added to little whey as mustard usually needs some liquid than what appears enough to start with


2 Responses to “Mustard”

  1. Fascinating.

    One of my mother’s favorite foods was herring in mustard sauce. I believe that’s a fairly common Scandinavian delicacy, now; but your experiment suggests that similar dishes might have been made in the Viking era.

    I am grateful that you maintain this blog; it is helping to educate me about how the Vikings really ate.

  2. eldrimner said

    Well, while it is still difficult to say if a mustardsauce was used during the Viking Age, one may conclude that mustard could have been used as a condiment using the resources available here and then.

    However, an indication that mustard and fish goes together can be found in numerous medieval cookbooks and food texts.

    About the age of mustard; I think there is a quote of a roman author in which he complains about the exaggerated use of mustard and how it stings his nose.

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